Fortification Friday: Interior Arrangements, starting with armaments

The next aspect of field fortifications to consider are the interior arrangements.  Thus far most of our focus has been towards the exterior, with the exception of the traverses, and what could be done to block or stop the attacker.  With the interior arrangements, the engineer would consider what could make the defenders’ job easier and, shall we say, more comfortable.  Mahan prefaced his lesson on interior arrangements by calling attention to such factors:

Under the [heading] of interior arrangements is comprised all the means resorted to within the work to procure an efficient defense; to preserve the troops and the material from the destructive effects of the enemy’s fire; and to prevent a surprise.

You are probably thinking, “protect the troops?  Isn’t that what the parapet does?  Doesn’t the ditch prevent surprise?”  Well… yes… you might look at it from that standpoint.  But what Mahan was calling attention to here were the structures and features which were internal to the works and designed to improve the nature of the defense.  As such “within the work” is the important phrase to consider.  But, keep your questions in mind as we work through this topic, as we will revisit shortly.

Mahan continued to offer a list of classes of these interior arrangements:

The class of constructions required for the above purposes, are batteries; powder magazines; traverses; shelters; enclosures for gorges and outlets; interior safety-redoubt, or keep; and bridges of communication.

From that we have a subdivision:

All arrangements made for the defense, with musketry and artillery, belong to what is termed the armament.

So we have a name for structures to support things that shoot.  Armaments.  Just for the context of these field fortification discussions, OK?

The armament with musketry is complete when the banquette and the interior and superior slopes are properly arranged, to enable the soldier to deliver his fire with effect; and to mount on the parapet to meet the enemy with the bayonet.  For this last purpose stout pickets may be driven into the interior slope, about midway from the bottom and three feet apart. The armament with artillery is, in a like manner, complete, when suitable means are taken to allow the guns to fire over the parapet, or through openings made in it; and when all the required accessories are provided for the service of the guns.

So… yes the parapet’s design can be considered part of the interior arrangements.

Mahan continues with this profound statement:

The armament with artillery is a subject of great importance….

You got me at “great importance.”

Oh, wait, I cut the professor off.  He has more on this ….

The armament with artillery is a subject of great importance, because it is not equally adapted to all classes of works.  Experience has demonstrated that the most efficient way of employing artillery, is in protecting the collateral salients by a well directed flank and cross fire, which shall not leave untouched a single foot of ground within its range, over which the enemy must approach.  It has moreover shown, that a work with a weak profile affords but little security to artillery within it; for artillery cannot defend itself, and such a work can be too easily carried by assault to offer any hope of keeping the enemy at a distance long enough to allow the artillery to produce its full effect.

The logic here is “form should follow function.”  If the intent is to have artillery fire on the enemy in order to break up the attack, then a flank fire is recommended.  And that artillery should blanket the approaches with fire… “shall not leave untouched a single foot….”  Artillery sits at the top of the list when making decisions about weapon placement.  It is the most effective, man per man, weapon for influencing the battlefield Not necessarily saying “killing” or producing causalities, but influencing the other side’s actions.  Yet, artillery’s influence is best gained over longer ranges.  Thus the need to form works that not only provide the artillery a measure of protection but also keep the enemy at greater than small arms length (range).

The best position for artillery is on the flanks and salients of a work; because from these points the salients are best protected, and the approaches best swept; and the guns should be collected at these points in batteries of several pieces; for experience has likewise shown, that it is only by opening a heavy, well-sustained fire on the enemy’s columns, that an efficient check can be [given] to them.  If only a few files are taken off, or the shot passes over the men, it rather inspires the enemy with confidence in his safety, and with contempt for the defenses.

Sun Tzu should have said it!  Don’t let the enemy become contempt of your defenses!

Consider the “best practice” offered by Mahan.  By placing artillery on the salients, the guns were out of the direct line of the attacker’s fires while being placed behind the various, and likely complex, defensive works on the “horns” of the bastion.  And artillery shouldn’t be parceled out as singles, but rather massed and inter-operated to multiply the effect.

All this is great theoretical talk.  Everyone would agree massing artillery is best.  But now we have a practical problem on the parapet.  With infantry, the parapet works fine to protect most of the body, provide cover to crouch behind when reloading, and, if the fight is close, an orientation for the bayonets.  But artillerymen cannot “crouch” an artillery piece.  And when servicing the weapon, they are exposed. Furthermore, there are all sorts of problems bringing 12 pound or 24 pound or larger projectiles up to the gun.  So to make the big guns work best, one must make arrangements.. in the interior…. And those arrangements Mahan identified under the classification of “batteries.” We’ll look at those next.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 51-2.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Minnesota and Maryland Batteries

Continuing through the summaries in the order of presentation, the next sections are for batteries from Minnesota and Maryland.  What of Maine? And shouldn’t Massachusetts and Michigan be ahead of Minnesota? Clearly the clerks of the Ordnance Department placed line count and page layout above ease of data retrieval.  We’ll see those other states represented… after Missouri!

For now we have the business of five batteries from “The star of the North” and the “Old Line State.”


Minnesota provided one heavy artillery regiment (very late in the war) and three light batteries to the cause.  The last of those light batteries was fully formed until late spring 1863.  So we see two listed here for the winter quarter of that year:

  • 1st Battery: Received on April 14, 1863, their report gave a location of Lake Providence, Louisiana, with two 12-pdr field howitzers and two 3.67-inch (6-pdr) rifles.  When Grant’s ponderous Thirteenth Corps was reorganized, the battery moved with its parent, the Sixth Division, into Seventeenth Corps.  During the winter the division moved from Memphis to Lake Providence, with other formations focused on Vicksburg.  Freshly promoted Captain William Z. Clayton commanded.
  • 2nd Battery:  On paper, we see this battery’s report arrived in Washington on April 15, claiming an advanced position at Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Something is certainly amiss with the entry.  Two 12-pdr Napoleons and four 10-pdr Parrotts is correct.  But the battery was actually at Murfreesboro with the rest of the Army of the Cumberland.  With the reorganization, the battery moved to First Division, Twentieth Corps.  Captain William A. Hotchkiss relinquished command of the battery to serve as the artillery chief.  Lieutenant Albert Woodbury assumed command.
  • 3rd Battery:  As mentioned above, this battery was still organizing at the reporting time and thus not on the summary.  Men from the 10th Minnesota Infantry transferred to form the battery.  Captain John Jones commanded.

Maryland had three batteries serving the Federal cause at this time in the war:

  • Battery A: The report received on June 23, 1863 indicated the battery wintered around White Oak Church, Virginia and possessed six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain James H. Rigby remained in command.  The battery was part of Sixth Corps at the time.
  • Battery B:  No date on the return, but the battery was also posted at White Oak Church. The battery reported four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Alonzo Snow commanded.  At the start of the quarter the battery was also part of the Sixth Corps.  By mid-spring the battery was listed as “unassigned” within the Army of the Potomac, then later assigned to the Provost Guard Brigade.
  • Baltimore Battery: The return of April 19 had the battery at Harpers Ferry, with one 6-pdr field gun and six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  The battery, under Captain F. W. Alexander, was in Kenley’s Division of the Eighth Corps (Middle Department).  Later the battery would transfer to Milroy’s Division at Winchester.

Among those five (reporting) batteries, we have three with smoothbore cannons:


And those had ammunition on hand to count:

  • 1st Minnesota: 92 shell, 104 case, and 130 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 2nd Minnesota: 96 shot, 32 shell, 96 case, and 32 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Baltimore Battery:  100 case and 100 canister for 6-pdr field guns.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, first those of Hotchkiss:


Four with quantities to report:

  • 1st Minnesota: 74 shot, 96 fuse shell, and 12 bullet shell for 3.67-inch rifle (labeled “Wiard” in the column header, but we know that caliber was also used by the rifled 6-pdr guns).
  • Battery A, Maryland: 40 canister and 181 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery B, Maryland: 120 fuse shell and 452 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Baltimore Battery:  150 canister, 616 percussion shell, and 712 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

We cannot “cut down” the next page due to the various projectiles reported.


Let us consider these by type.  One battery had Dyer’s on hand:

  • Battery A, Maryland: 32 shell, 527 shrapnel, and 80 canister for 3-inch rifle.

Now to the Parrott columns:

  • 2nd Minnesota: 416 shell and 149 canister for 10-pdr (2.9-inch) Parrott.

Lastly, there are some Schenkl columns on this page:

  • 2nd Minnesota: 15 shot for 10-pdr Parrott – reminder, these are Schenkl projectiles but made to work in Parrott rifles.

We see more Schenkl projectiles on the next page:


These are in the Maryland batteries:

  • Battery A, Maryland: 332 shell in 3-inch rifle caliber.
  • Battery B, Maryland: 179 shell in 3-inch rifle caliber.

Then all the way to the right, we find Tatham’s canister in use:

  • 1st Minnesota: 126 canister for 3.67-inch (6-pdr) rifle caliber.

I do like that we see the 3.67-inch rifle caliber projectiles specifically called out on the forms.  This underscores the difference – practical and administrative – between the James Rifles and the rifled 6-pdrs.

Moving to the small arms:


By battery:

  • 1st Minnesota: Eleven Navy revolvers and thirteen cavalry sabers.
  • 2nd Minnesota: One Navy revolver and eight cavalry sabers.
  • Battery A, Maryland: Eight Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B, Maryland: Fourteen Army revolvers and 102 cavalry sabers.
  • Baltimore Battery: Six Springfield .58-caliber muskets, twenty Army revolvers, and thirty horse artillery sabers.

We see, with one small exception, a desired small arms issue for artillery batteries.

Perhaps this is the best rounded, complete set of returns submitted thus far.  Just one question, about the location of the 2nd Minnesota battery.  And we see every cannon on the report had some projectile to fire!

Pokemon Go… where the markers, monuments, and battlefields are!

Over the last week, Pokemon Go has successfully replaced Trump, Clinton, and even the Kardashians in the news cycle.


The game is the hottest “new thing” in a world that embraces “new things.”  We call it “viral” now days… a word use that would prompt face-palms from the Civil War generation.  The best I can offer as a guide to this crazy game is an article from Vox.  (With some luck, the aide-de-camp has not expressed an interest in the game… yet!)

There are a lot of rocks being thrown at the game and the gamers.  Tales of gamers running off cliffs or getting hit by cars in the obsessive quest for little virtual characters.  And beyond the physical world, there are some virtual security precautions that participants in the game should consider.  Tales of woe that give pause for anyone… anyone above the age of 25 without a YOLO-death-wish outlook on life that is.

But that’s the down side.  And the aspect that gets much play in the news.

There is an upside.  Consider:

The National Park Service could, with justification, make a “No Pokemon Go” stance.  But Director John Jarvis opted to encourage the activity with caution.  And I like the hook in the end to “find” a park along the way.

Yes, there is a risk that in pursuit of Pokemon creatures someone will wade into the World War II Memorial or traipse across a National Cemetery.  But those egregious possibilities aside, is there anything wrong with the pursuit of Pokemon across the battlefield?  I’m inclined to say there is not.  Those fields are set aside for us to walk over and consider.  Some go there to consider the acts of war that took place.  Others go there to consider the wildlife.  And others go there for reasons far removed from the original intent of these parks.  We’ve come to accept those reasons so long as the acts are compatible with the primary goal of the park.

I don’t see anything particularly unsettling with a group of kids running across the battlefield, so long as they are safe.  Certainly less obtrusive than some other uses that come to mind.  And as the director alludes to, such just might open eyes to the greater purpose of the park system.

And that brings me to another aspect… an upside, if I may suggest… to the Pokemon Go craze.  The game actually uses a system of what they call PokeStops, were these creatures – the goal of the game – are located.  Virtually that is.  From the IGN wiki on the game:

These will be located at select places near you, such as historical markers, monuments, and art installations.

In layman’s terms, these physical placemarks serve as an anchor point for the game’s augmented virtual reality.  SciFi folks might call them “portals” into the game.  How ever you want to spin that.  The bottom line is the game pulls in the coordinates of many public exhibits and features to build a virtual game playing space.

… And one of the inputs to that list of coordinates is the Historical Marker Database (HMDB).  Gamers being gamers will always look to out game the game.  So if these virtual creatures seem to live around historical markers, what better to do than go looking for historical markers?  The owner/editor of HMDB tells me use of the website went up three-fold last week.  Pokemon Go players are hitting the site and use the “markers nearby” feature to move among potential PokeStops.

Now, one would hope that some of those visits to PokeStops involve pauses to read the marker, consider the memorial, or appreciate the art.  We know that even without Pokemon creatures about, only one in about fifty of the average visitors will stop to do that anyway.   At least for those in quest of Pokemon, they are consulting a list of what is nearby.  So it is not all bad.

Indeed, an enterprising mind could well see opportunity here.  What if the participant’s chance of catching said virtual creature was enhanced by display of knowledge of the historical site (or other such criteria relative to the physical site)?  What if someone flipped this game format to something other than a quest for Pokemon thingys?  You know, sort of like a scavenger hunt of old?

… my mind wonders back to my youth and days spent hiking Shiloh on the “Cannon Trail” to earn a Boy Scout patch. Mind you, that’s a major reason you have this blog to read….

Fortification Friday: Torpedoes – Infernal machines or suitable obstacle?

Last week we discussed mines, with some focus on command detonated mines.  Use of those sort of mines dated back to the invention of gunpowder.  The action of the mine was timed by the defender to effect. If triggered correctly, the mine could disrupt an attack.  Even rumors of mines might even dissuade an attack on a particular sector.  But as we saw there were drawbacks to the use of mine.  (One I neglected to mention was maintenance of the powder charge, which by necessity was often in a place apt to be damp.)  Thus mines were rated as an elaborate, though sometimes worthwhile, obstacle.

It should come as no surprise the Civil War saw the major debut of the automatic mine (we might argue that the “first” were used in the Seminole Wars, though).  Usually called torpedoes in contemporary reports, these differed from the earlier mines by using a trip or trigger acted upon by the attacker.  The torpedoes were set in a manner that an attacker’s footfall or passage would trigger the explosion.  The leader in this field of weaponry was Confederate Brigadier-General Gabriel J. Rains. There were several different fusing mechanisms employed.  I’ll save the technical details for another time (however, for those with an appetite, there is an examination of Confederate torpedoes used on Morris Island in 1863).

Writing for the edification of cadets in the 1880s, Junius B. Wheeler discussed the use of Rains’ “infernal machiens”, …er… torpedoes in the defense:

Torpedoes – Loaded shells buried in the earth just deep enough to be concealed, and arranged so they can be exploded automatically, or at the will of the defense, have been used as obstacles. Arrangements of this kind are known as torpedoes.

The case enclosing the charge may be either of wood or iron. Condemned shells are especially suitable for the purpose.

The explosive compound used to charge them may be powder, gun-cotton, nitro-glycerine, or any material which, upon being fired, will burst the case containing the charge and scatter the fragments in every direction.

The automatic – sometimes known as the “sensitive” torpedo – is fired by contact.  It has the advantage of being exploded at the right time, but has the disadvantages of making the ground, in which it is buried, dangerous to the defense, and of subjecting the men when handling it to the danger of accidental explosions.

The torpedo which is fired “at will” has the disadvantage of being fired oftentimes prematurely, or when it is too late.

Circumstances can only decide as to which of the two is to be preferred as an obstacle.

Wheeler made clear distinction between the command detonated and automatic, or sensitive, mines/torpedoes.  We see a familiar method of employment, being concealed in the earth.

What is not discussed in detail is arrangement of the obstacle.  Wheeler did not discuss seeding roadways or footpaths with these torpedoes.  Instead, at other points in the lesson Wheeler suggests use of torpedoes in the ditch or the ground in front of the works, integrated with other obstacles.  “Torpedoes, military pits, entanglements, etc., may all be combined.”

Wheeler cited a couple of disadvantages to the use of torpedoes.  To that we should add the aforementioned need to protect the powder from dampness.  As the technology evolved through the 19th and 20th centuries, better handling configurations, powder, and triggering mechanisms reduced those disadvantages.  Yet the automatic mine remains an indiscriminate killer on the battlefield to be feared by attacker, defender, and non-combatant alike.

What I do find most interesting is the tone of Wheeler’s instruction.  Gone were mention of “infernal machines” or violations of civilized warfare.  Indeed, the only restraints offered are those practical for the defender.  Fifteen years removed from the Civil War, military leaders accepted the torpedo as a weapon and gone forward to embrace its use.

It would be another century before the Convention on Conventional Weapons, in 1980, would offer limits to the use of anti-personnel mines.  Seventeen years later, the Ottawa Treaty directly banned the use of most types of anti-personnel mines (anti-vehicle and command detonated still being allowed under the treaty).  You see, while the technical evolution of the mine has progressed in a linear form, the acceptance of the weapon has seen rises and falls.

(Citations from Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 178-9, 183.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Kentucky and Kansas Batteries

The entries offered in the summary statements for the Kentucky and Kansas batteries have less precise identities than those for other states.  We might call it sloppy clerical work.  Or perhaps the imprecise entries point to a larger issue – that of organizing a massive army, spread across a continent, in short order.  Just getting the designations to comply with standard conventions was a reach.  The snip of the first page illustrates the lack of those conventions:


Looking first to Kentucky (because the clerks didn’t use alphabetical order!), we see two entries and those for the 1st and 2nd Kentucky.  Wartime correspondence of the time-period in question use lettered and numbered batteries, with some irritating interchangeability.  And, there was a third, independent, battery mentioned usually by the commander’s name.  That said, let me look at the conundrum from the reverse angle.  These are the batteries mentioned in Dyer’s Compendium, as a starting point:

  • Battery A:  Captain David C. Stone’s battery was assigned to First Division, Fourteenth Corps at the start of the new year. Later in the spring, the battery was detached, being unassigned and serving in the garrison of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  In May, 1st Lieutenant Theodore S. Thomasson was promoted to Captain and appointed commander of the “1st Kentucky Battery”, still listed by some sources as Stone’s Battery.  So this is likely the battery indicated as “1st Battery” on the summary.  And for simplicity, I’ll refer to them as 1st Kentucky through the remainder of this post.  No ordnance listed for this battery in the reporting period.
  • Battery B: This was Captain John M. Hewett’s battery.  Hewett was captured in July 1862 and did not return to the battery until March 1863.  Lieutenant Alban A. Ellsworth commanded in his absence.  The battery was assigned to Second division, Fourteenth Corps.  And this battery is often cited as 2nd Battery Kentucky Light Artillery.  However, the listing in the summary is clearly referencing a different battery.  I submit Hewett’s Battery escaped the clerk’s tally.
  • Battery C: Not organized until May 1863.  So this battery should not concern us for first quarter, 1863.
  • Battery D: Never completed organization, so we need not worry about this battery.
  • Battery E: Not organized until October-December 1863.
  • Simmond’s Battery:  Captain Seth J. Simmonds commanded a battery formed out of Company E, 1st Kentucky Infantry.  The battery served at Gauley Bridge and Kanawha Falls, West Virginia through the winter and early spring of 1863.  Under reorganizations, the battery became part of 3rd Division, Eighth Corps.  Given the place location referenced, the clerks referenced Simmond’s as the 2nd Kentucky Battery.  I will use Simmond’s here for clarity.  The battery reported six 10-pdr Parrotts.

As you can see, the lax administrative details lead to lengthy explanations 150 years later.

As for Kansas, we see five batteries listed.  All are by commander’s name or reference non-artillery parent units:

  • Allen’s Battery: I think this references Captain Norman Allen and the 1st Kansas Independent Battery. At the first of the year, Allen’s was part of the garrison in Springfield, Missouri. Later in the spring the battery moved to Fort Scott.  So the reporting location of Lawrence, Kansas is problematic.  The battery reported six 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Blair’s Battery: Fort Scott, Kansas. Four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. This should be Lieutenant Edward A. Smith’s 2nd Battery Kansas Artillery.  The name references Captain Charles W. Blair, the battery’s first commander.
  • Hopkins’ Battery: Captain Henry Hopkins’ 3rd Kansas Battery. The battery had three 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer. At the start of the year, the battery was in the Department of Northwest Arkansas, at Van Buren on the Arkansas River.  Later in the spring the battery moved to Fort Gibson, in the Cherokee Nation (and that post was briefly named Fort Blunt, as the ledger indicates).
  • 2nd Cavalry: A section in the regiment reported two 12-pdr mountain howitzers. The section was with the regiment at Springfield, Missouri.  Lieutenant Elias S. Stover is listed as the section commander.
  • 9th Cavalry:  A section under Lieutenant Henry H. Opedyke, reporting two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  The section’s reported location was Trading Post, Kansas on the Marais des Cygnes River.

As you can see, it is possible to “square” the summary entries for Kansas with units listed from other sources. For clarity, for this post I’ll use the same designations indicated on the summary for the Kansas batteries instead of the (perhaps more proper) numerical designations.

Turning now to the ammunition on hand, as per the format we see the smoothbore projectiles on hand first:



  • 1st Battery: Though they reported no guns, they had 28 spherical case for 6-pdr field guns.  Go figure.


  • Blair’s Battery:  146 shot, 200 case, and 100 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 46 shell, and 74 case for 12-pdr howitzers; 120 case and 98 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers. (As mentioned in earlier posts, the latter column was often used for both field and mountain howitzer canister tallies.)
  • 2nd Kansas Cavalry:  55 case and 8 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 9th Kansas Cavalry: 41 shell, 116 case, and 57 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

None of the batteries reported Hotchkiss projectiles on hand.  And from the next page of rifled projectiles, only Parrotts were on hand:


For those Parrott columns:

  • Simmond’s Battery: 1000 shell, 575 case, and 137 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Allen’s Battery: 804 shell, 228 case, and 152 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

The next page, for Schenkl’s and Tatham’s projectiles, is blank. so we can move directly to the small arms:


By battery:

  • Simmond’s Battery: Nine Army revolvers and thirty-three cavalry sabers.
  • Allen’s Battery: 100 Navy revolvers and ten cavalry sabers.
  • Blair’s Battery: 134 Navy revolvers and twenty-four cavalry sabers.
  • Hopkins’ Battery: Fifty-one Navy revolvers.
  • 2nd Kansas Cavalry section: Seven Navy revolvers and one cavalry saber.
  • 9th Kansas Cavalry section: One cavalry saber.

Yes, I’d expect to see more small arms reported from the sections in the cavalry.  But the large number of pistols in the other Kansas artillery formations makes up for that, somewhat.  The Kentucky gunners defending Gauley Bridge had ample Parrott shells around, and were without need of many small arms.

Fortification Friday: Mines! The exploding obstacle.

The last sort of obstacle described by Mahan in regard to field fortification was the mine.  The word “mine” is itself rather quirky when applied to military science.  The word use is arguably consistent, in that a mine is a concealed explosive device.  However, through the centuries the physical form and functionality of the mine has varied.  Furthermore, in the Civil War context, the term “torpedo” applied to many sorts of “mines”.  Thus we have another term which should be understood in context.

When we say “land mine”, to be specific to field fortifications, now days we think of something like this:


The idea is to bury or other wise conceal this sort of weapon in a location that the enemy might use as a avenue of approach. This particular Chinese mine is typical of modern types, in that it has a trigger.  Once in place, it does not require involvement of the defender.  Just an unlucky attacker (or innocent civilian as happens too often) to trigger the weapon by movement or influence.  There are scores of variations used for triggering and detonation – trip wires, magnetic influence, motion detection, simple pressure plate, and such.  And there are several different variations regarding what the weapon does when triggered, based on the intended effect – anti-personnel or anti-tank being most frequently cited.  Of course, we know of “torpedoes” that were used in this manner… well, not anti-tank of course… during the Civil War.

However, not all mines are triggered by the attacker’s missteps.  Other types are designed to set off at an opportune moment by an operator.  Command detonated is the phrase often applied.  This may be done via electrical signal or some sort of time fuse.  And please understand such mines could be used by the attacker as well as the defender.  The Petersburg mine is a famous example of a command detonated mine used for offensive needs.  But we’ll deal with the mine in siege operations at a later post.

Mahan was familiar with command detonated mines in the pre-Civil War days.  Even if he was not high on their use:

Mines. Attempts at applying mines to the defense of field works have seldom proved successful, owing to the rapid character of the assault, from which the mines are usually sprung too soon or too late; so that the only effect that can be counted upon for their use is the panic they may create.

In addition, let us consider setting off explosive devices in close proximity to defensive fortifications might well undo those structures.  So the defender had to be wary about placement.  And if placed too far from the works, the mine was of little use to break up the attack.  Worst case scenario, a mine would create a crater from which the enemy gained purchase near the works.  All considerations that spoke against the use of mines for most situations.

But that is not to say all command detonated mines were discouraged.  Mahan felt one specific employment had merit:

There is one species of mine denominated a stone-fougasse, which it is thought might be successfully applied to the defense of the ditches and salients of field works. To make this mine, an inclined funnel shaped excavation is made, to the depth of five or six feet, at the bottom of the funnel a box containing fifty five pounds of powder is placed, with a powder-hose communicates.

Technically speaking, the fougasse was considered an improvised mortar.  In its original form, the fougasse was a hole in the ground in which powder and the desired projectile payload was set.  The stone-fougasse was simply an evolved form.  Let me offer the accompanying illustration from the Mahan’s post-war manual, as it is clearer in detail:


As you see from the caption, we have four major elements.  The powder box itself is indicated by A and A’.  Mahan described the desired structure as “A strong shield of wood, formed of battens well nailed together” and placed in front of the box.

In front of the shield over the powder is a pile of stone, marked B and B’.  These would be “three or four cubic yards of pebbles, or an equal weight of brick bats, or other materials….” Note the suggested dimensions of the funnel in front of the pile – 22 feet out and an 18 foot mouth.

The powder-hose is indicated by C and C’.  Lastly, D and D’ are, in the original text, a “powder trough tamped with sand-bags, which, with the arrangement of the earth, as shown in the section, are to prevent the load from acting to the rear.”   That being a good thing for the defender, serving to reduce damage of the works in close proximity to the stone-fougasse.

Mahan suggested, “A fougasse of this size, when sprung, will scatter pebbles over a surface sixty yards in length, and seventy yards in breadth.”  Such would do great injury to an attacker confined in the ditch or exposed in front of a salient.

Writing post-war, Junius Wheeler offered a variation on this theme:

Shell-fougasses. – A shell fougasse is a box containing loaded shells, concealed in the earth, and so arranged as to be exploded when the enemy is over the spot.

The box is divided by a partition into two parts, an upper and a lower. The loaded shells are placed in the upper part, with the fuzes downwards and connecting with the lower part by holes bored in the partition.

A charge of powder is placed in the lower division of the box of sufficient quantity, when fired, to throw the shells to the surface.  This charge is fired by means of a fuze, or electricity, like other fougasses.

Again, a nasty prospect for attackers.  But as with the caveats offered by Mahan, the defender had to take care when placing this or any other command detonated mines.

Before leaving the command detonated mines, allow me to connect two modern-day variations on the theme.  First off, command detonated mines are still used by modern armies – most notably the M18 Claymore Mine:


We see here the mine itself, marked “Front Toward Enemy.” Inside the plastic case is an explosive.  And in front of that explosive is a layer of steel projectiles.  So very much a miniature version of the stone-fougasse.  Also seen here is a spool of wire and a trigger mechanism, which also relate to elements Mahan described for his fougasses.  The optimum range of the Claymore is about 55 yards.  So we see the concept remains practical, but is much more refined.

And fougasses themselves remained in use by military forces right up to modern times.  Through the 20th century, several variations were applied.  The most often seen variation replaced rocks, shells, or other projectiles with flammable liquids:


The French being corrupted to “foo gas” by soldiers in some cases.  But you see the same basic elements of Mahan’s fougasse.  And the intended method of employment is very much the same as in Mahan’s day.

Before leaving the discussion of obstacles, let us exceed Mahan’s “lesson plan” a bit and discuss that other type of mine… called torpedo in Civil War texts… in the next installment.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 49-50;  Mahan, An Elementary Course of Military Engineering: Part 1: Field Fortifications, Military Mining, and Siege Operations, New York: John Wiley & Son, 1870, page 78;  Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, page 181.)


Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Indiana’s Batteries, Part 2

We split the Indiana batteries in half, discussing the first twelve batteries in the last installment.  Those batteries were all posted to the Western or Trans-Mississippi Theaters.  So now we turn to the lower half of the order:


And right off the bat we see a few Eastern Theater postings.  Clerks recorded entries for eight of the thirteen batteries:

  • 13th Battery: No return.  Captain Benjamin S. Nicklin’s battery began the year posted to Gallatin, Tennessee.  Though part of the Army of the Cumberland, the battery was unattached.
  • 14th Battery: At Jackson, Tennessee with three 6-pdr field guns and one 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  With the new year, Lieutenant Homer H. Stull commanded the battery.  Shortly into January, Lieutenant Francis W. Morse was listed as commander.  The battery came under the Sixteenth Corps with Grant’s reorganizations, but remained at Jackson.
  • 15th Battery: This battery was in Paris… Kentucky that is … with six 3-inch rifles, according to the summary.  That would be valid for later in the year.  But in March 1863 it was under Captain John C. H. von Sehlen and in transit through Indianapolis. The battery was part of Burnside’s command being transferred west.
  • 16th Battery: A return of Fort Washington, Maryland without any guns listed.  There is a faint note “Baty Stores” under the regiment column.  Lieutenant Charles R. Deming’s battery were part of the Washington Defenses.
  • 17th Battery: At Harpers Ferry, West Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain M. L. Miner’s battery supported the Maryland Brigade in the Eighth Corps.
  • 18th Battery:  No Return. Captain Eli Lilly’s battery was part of the reorganized Fourteenth Corps in the winter of 1863, posted in the sprawling Fortress Rosecrans at Murfreesboro.
  • 19th Battery: Also at Murfreesboro, and filing a return showing four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. And like the 18th, Captain Samuel J. Harris’s battery was part of Fourteenth Corps.
  • 20th Battery:  No return.  Captain Milton A. Osborne’s battery was assigned to the District of Western Kentucky.  According to an inventory posted later in June, the battery had four 12-pdr “heavy” field guns.
  • 21st Battery:  No return. Serving through the winter with the Army of Kentucky, Captain William W. Anderw’s battery transferred to the Fourteenth Corps later in June.
  • 22nd Battery: At Louisville, Kentucky with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Under Captain Benjamin F. Denning, this battery was mustered into service in December 1862.  They were placed in the Twenty-Third Corps, Army of the Ohio later in the spring.
  • 23rd Battery:  Reporting at Indianapolis, Indiana with six 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain James H. Myers’ men were charged with guarding prisoners during the winter of 1863.
  • 24th Battery: No return. Under Captain Joseph A. Sims, the battery was just leaving the state in March 1863.  They would become part of the Twenty-Third Corps.
  • Wilder’s Battery (26th Battery): Reporting at Knoxville, Tennessee with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  However, that location is probably reflective of the reporting date of August 20, 1864. The battery was among those surrendered at Harpers Ferry the previous campaign season. Going through the formalities of parole, the battery was actually posted at locations in Illinois and Indiana during the winter. Lieutenant Caspar W. McLaughlin was in command.  We’ll find the battery assigned to the Twenty-Third Corps later in the spring.

Notice that Wilder’s Independent Battery later received, at least on some records, the numerical designation of the 26th Battery.  The 25th Battery would not muster in until November 1864.

Moving down to the ammunition reported on hand, starting with the smoothbore types:


Three batteries reporting:

  • 14th Battery: 328 shot, 296 case, and 68 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • 19th Battery: 80 shot, 60 shell, 60 case, and 32 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • 22nd Battery: 216 shot, 424 shell, 424 case, and 616 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

Hey, now!  The 22nd Battery was trying to defy the inference I made last week!  But keep in mind that battery was just coming into service in March 1863.  And by the reporting date of November 1863 (since we’ve seen that weigh on the data clerks transcribed) the battery had served as garrison artillery for several months.  Such may explain the ammunition mix.

Now on to the rifled projectiles starting with Hotchkiss:


Six lines to discuss:

  • 14th Battery: 45 canister and 162 percussion shell in 3-inch caliber.
  • 15th Battery: 360 canister, 360 fuse shell, and 1080 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 17th Battery: 250 canister, 212 fuse shell, and 719 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 19th Battery: 76 canister, 86 fuse shell, and 98 bullet shell for 3-inch.
  • 23rd Battery: 440 percussion shell and 355 fuse shell for 3.80-inch James.
  • Wilder’s Battery:  600 canister, 180 percussion shell, 362 fuse shell, and 456 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Again, we see rather large quantities of canister.  But those batteries reporting also happened to be assigned rear area duties.  So we don’t necessarily have an example of a trend being bucked.  Even the 19th Battery, assigned to a field command, was placed in a fortification at the reporting period.  I’d call more attention to the 23rd Battery, which was guarding prisoners, with no canister on hand.  Guess just having a big bore James rifle on hand was scary enough.

Moving to the next page of rifled projectiles, we find scant entries to discuss:


That is for 23rd Battery, reporting 95 James-pattern 3.80-inch case on hand.

Likewise, the Schenkl page is almost bare:


14th Battery had 83 Schenkl 3-inch shells on hand.

That leaves us to the small arms:


By battery:

  • 14th Battery: Sixteen cavalry sabers.
  • 15th Battery: Sixteen Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • 17th Battery: Seventeen Army revolvers, two cavalry sabers, and thirty-two horse artillery sabers.
  • 19th Battery: Twenty-five army revolvers and sixteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 22nd Battery: Thirty-two horse artillery sabers.
  • 23rd Battery: Twenty (?) horse artillery sabers,

Not a lot of excess small arms for these batteries. In particular, these Indiana artillerists didn’t have many firearms on hand.  Perhaps that’s the way their commanders preferred.  So they could focus on their larger, crew-served weapons.